MONTE CARLO (AFP) – Novak Djokovic said he “ran out of gas” as he lost his opening match at the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday in just his second tournament of the year following his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
The world No. 1 went down 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1 to 46th-ranked Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round after dropping his serve nine times in a rusty performance.
“I was hanging on the ropes the entire match. I was really chasing the result constantly,” said Djokovic, whose only other appearance in 2022 was in Dubai in February where he played just three matches.
“I didn’t like the way I felt physically in the third (set). I just ran out of gas completely.
“Just couldn’t really stay in the rally with him. If you can’t stay in the rally, not feeling your legs on the clay, it’s mission impossible.”
Djokovic admitted his absence from most events had been “difficult, mentally and emotionally” but said he was “moving on” ahead of his return at a tournament he won in 2013 and 2015.
Davidovich Fokina had lost both previous meetings to Djokovic in straight sets, in Rome and at the Tokyo Olympics last season, but he raced into a 4-1 lead and took the first set.
It marks the first time Djokovic has lost his opening match at a tournament since falling to Martin Klizan at Barcelona four years ago.
He has not gone beyond the quarter-finals in Monte Carlo since 2015.
Davidovich Fokina, a quarter-finalist here on his debut a year ago, will play David Goffin or Dan Evans for a place in the last eight.
Defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas eased into the last 16 with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Fabio Fognini, who won the title in 2019.
Taylor Fritz, the only player to beat Rafael Nadal this year en route to the trophy at Indian Wells last month, overcame home wildcard Lucas Catarina 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.